It’s no secret that most of us live pretty active lives online.
Whether it’s Facebook, email, or our banking and investment accounts, much of the information that we rely on can only be accessed via the internet. When it comes to leaving behind a digital legacy, it's critical to have part of your estate plan focus on these assets.
On a personal note, when my mother was diagnosed with leukemia, she disclosed her financial and estate planning information with me. What makes this quite peculiar is that all of this information was left in code. My mother was a Morse code operator in the Royal Air Force in WWII and was very knowledgeable in creating codes and passwords. She had an accompanying book that detailed how to decode the information, but nevertheless, it took about a year to decipher all of her notes. If she hadn’t told me about her book and codes, it would have been nearly impossible to access important estate and financial planning tasks. With this in mind, making sure your heirs can “crack the code” to access your digital legacy is important. Below are several tips to consider:
- Create a master list. Keep a running list of all online accounts and their accompanying passwords. This should include email accounts, social media accounts, financial accounts and utilities (including checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts, mortgages, life insurance, gas and electric, phone or cable bills, and tax-preparation services), websites, blogs and licensed domain names, seller’s accounts on eBay or Amazon, music, photos or books stored online, and online communities where you have been active.
- Get specific. It’s essential to detail exactly what you would like to happen to each account. Would you like your loved ones to have access to your photos or iTunes library? Would you like your social media accounts to be deleted or turned into “memorial” accounts for your loved ones to access?
- Select a “digital executor.” Your digital executor should be aware of where you keep your passwords in case they need to be decoded. Have a conversation with them about this, but also lay out the instructions in writing. Another thing to consider is “vaulting” your digital goods with a company that can consolidate all of it into one platform.
While it may seem like a grim topic to discuss, your digital legacy is important. The legacy that you leave behind is both educational and sentimental, so make sure that your heirs will be able to access it.
Ken Moraif is a certified financial planner and nationally recognized radio host of “Money Matters.”